The Lakers on Friday were as healthy as they were this season, but they still looked broken, old and weak defensively after another home defeat.
They have repeatedly warned everyone to expect a bumpy start to their season because it will take them time to get together, but when they have passed a quarter of their schedule, is it too early or too late to write from their struggles as a product of ignorance?
When is it time to wonder if this collection of superstars has what it takes to play champion-level defense and keep pace with less talented but more adventurous and headstrong opponents than the Lakers on Friday?
What if the way they stumbled upon a horrific 141-137 defeat in three times overtime to a permanently hammered Sacramento at the Staples Center turns out to be who these Lakers really are?
They were 13 points ahead of the Kings by just under two minutes before the start of the fourth quarter and could not resist. They were leading with 12 points just under nine minutes before the end of the fourth quarter. “We obviously wouldn’t want to be one game below 0.500 in season four,” James said. “But we know we have more room for improvement – we still have to improve.”
Falling to 7-6 at home and 10-11 overall, they lost, outplayed and outplayed the team they should have run out of the gym. And they knew it.
“We just, when we have the opportunity to knock out a team, we just let them stay in a few games: there is fluidity, there is no rebound, a breakdown in defense, a strong blow,” said coach Frank Vogel. … “We just could not tear ourselves away, but we continue to work on it.
“We want to win every game we play. We want to create cohesion and understanding in every game we play. But we all know it will take time. We must understand this. And those guys in the locker room are competing with each other, sticking together and believing in who we can be. ”
It’s hard to imagine great things in the future for the Lakers after seeing 19 losses on Friday, two of James’ 13 shots from a three-point distance, an unbalanced performance by Anthony Davis with nine of 22 shots (and none of the five he tried out of depth) in his first game back after missing the finale of their recent trip due to a fever. They had no idea how to stop defender De’Aaron Fox, who burned them by 34 points, or Buddy Hilda, who had 17 out of 25 points in three overtimes.
Collecting the All-Star Game this season, they sacrificed defense that was vital to their 2020 Bubble Championship in favor of offense and nostalgia. This formula does not work now, and there is no reason to believe that it will work later. It’s easy to criticize Vogel’s rotation, but the lineup he works with doesn’t match up with his strengths as a coach.
Davis, while admittedly disappointed, insisted that he could imagine how the team would drastically change the situation in the near future.
“You know, 10-11, I mean we could have continued our 10-game win streak, 12-game win streak, now the story has changed. You know, a 10-game winning streak, we’re 20-11. Now let’s shut everyone up, ”he said. “But it’s on us. We’ll have to do this. It won’t be just that.
“At the beginning of the season, we knew that no one would give us anything. Nobody will pity us. Nobody was going to worry about us. We have to go out and take this. And this is the most interesting thing. At the end of the day, it’s worth it when you need to work hard on it and work the way you should. It will be much better to keep the trophy at the end of the year. ”
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A 10-game winning streak will double their wins. Their longest winning streak this season is three, followed by two straight games against humble Houston in late October. The way the Lakers have played so far does not offer any hope that they are ready to continue any long winning streak, not after having made their way in what should have been a pleasant schedule in the first month. and lost to the teams they were supposed to beat.
When asked why it has been so difficult for the Lakers so far – and why he has the slightest confidence that they can carry out the winning streak he mentioned – Davis answered dryly.
“We are the Lakers, so any team we play with will be boring. Everyone wants to beat the Lakers, AD, Bron and Russ and Melo, ”he said, referring to himself, James, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. “It’s pretty obvious that every time we play with a team, guys who are fighting out of three or fighting off the field or whatever have great games against us. So we need to know what’s going on.
“But the second question, we are the Lakers.”
It is not enough to expect the team’s history and traditions to preserve them. “Look, we all have a loss aversion,” said James. “The way it is. But at the same time, you must stay afloat throughout the entire process and understand that we can recover from our defeats, we can recover from our victories. ”
The schedule continues. On Sunday they will face the Detroit Pistons, a rematch of last week’s game in which James was eliminated and suspended one game for a hand throw that left a bloody cut across Isaiah Stewart’s face. Stewart was suspended for two games for trying to get to James. Stewart reiterated on Friday that he considered the strike deliberate, but James insisted otherwise.
“In fact, this was done on purpose to get his hand away from me. This part was intentional. But my hand didn’t hit him in the face on purpose, ”James said. “He kind of lost his balance when I started chopping, and like that, his head hit my hand.”
James also said he felt no individual motivation to face Detroit again. “I don’t enter this game with any expectations other than our attempts to emerge victorious and return to 0.500,” he said. “This is the most important thing, and I always thought so.”
Imagine the Lakers have a record of 0.500 goals. But so far they are.